ATLANTA – Thousands of delegates and alternates meeting in Athens to hash over policy resolutions shouldn’t expect candidates to be bound by them, according to a poll released last week.
That’s the view of a majority of ordinary voters who say they intend to cast ballots in Georgia’s March presidential primary.
And twice as many want officeholders to be more fiscally conservative as compared to more socially conservative.
Those are among the results of a poll conducted Tuesday evening for Morris News Service and InsiderAdvantage by OpinionSavvy. It included 516 likely GOP primary voters, with a 4 percent margin of error after being adjusted to reflect the expected demographics of those turning out next winter.
A regular exercise at political conventions is debate over and voting on policy resolutions. Among the most watched this year is whether to back the so-called religious freedom bill in the legislature that supporters say would safeguard individuals from being forced to violate their religious beliefs and opponents say would be a way to discriminate against homosexuals. The survey didn’t ask about that resolution specifically.
Political philosophy is also an issue in the election of the party chairman Saturday. Challenger Alex Johnson is appealing to those delegates frustrated by elected officials he says aren’t true to the party’s fundamental positions.
“While you have worked hard for the party and your principles to ensure Republican victories, the state party has remained silent and supportive as some so-called ‘Republican’ politicians betray your basic core principles and destroy our brand,” he wrote in an email campaigning for the chairmanship.
While making elected officials toe the party line may appeal to delegates, it’s not a goal of most ordinary Republicans. When asked if party support and campaign funding should be withheld for straying from party positions, half of those surveyed said no. Just one in three questioned favored enforcing party discipline.
That’s not to say the party has no role. Sixty-one percent rated the party as important in determining turnout and swaying votes in an election. Just 15 percent consider it unimportant.
Pollster Matt Towery, founder of InsiderAdvantage, said he’s not surprised.
“While respondents say the Republican Party in Georgia is important, they don’t believe candidates should have to run on or support the official positions it takes,” he said. “Having chaired a GOP convention many years ago (1992), that confirms what I guessed then. Few care about the resolutions that are passed at a convention.”
That doesn’t mean Republican voters have no philosophical preference. A plurality of 45 percent want “current Republican leadership in Georgia, including the governor, the legislature, constitutional officers and representatives to Congress” to be more fiscally conservative. Just 20 percent pine for more social conservatism, and 15 percent say things are about right.
Towery notes that, since the poll also shows 71 percent approval for Sen. Johnny Isakson’s job performance and 78 percent for Gov. Nathan Deal’s, there doesn’t seem to be significant displeasure.
“We really ask this question to see if the social-conservative movement is rising or falling,” he said. “At present, it is about where it usually is. That means social conservatives do not dominate the GOP electorate but can make a difference in tight GOP primaries.”
Deal’s popularity doesn’t extend to letting him pick the party chairman, as Democratic governors did for decades. Just 14 percent of those polled said Republican governors should have that authority.
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